The Southern Miss-Louisiana Tech baseball series took on the feel of an intense rivalry in Hattiesburg a year ago.
Louisiana Tech and USM players jawed back and forth as USM pulled out an important 2-1 series win by winning the final two games. There was even some heated chatter that took place between a Bulldog player and a handful of fans at Pete Taylor Park after the final game of the series.
When USM travels to La. Tech on Friday for the opening series of the Conference USA slate, it should make for another interesting chapter in a budding rivalry.
Just don't expect to see the two head coaches going at it.
Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry and Louisiana Tech's first-year head coach, Lane Burroughs, are close friends and have been for the better part of two decades.
The relationship started when Burroughs played outfield at Meridian Community College from 1992-93, competing under former USM head coach Corky Palmer. Berry served as an assistant on the staff at MCC at the time.
Over the years, the bond has grown.
“We're as close as two people can be who aren't blood related,” Burroughs said. “He's like an older brother to me.”
Conference foes, friends
Berry was in Burroughs' wedding and the two men talk almost daily on the phone. They worked together on the staff at USM from 2001-07 before Burroughs left to join the staff at Mississippi State.
Berry was promoted to USM head coach following the 2009 College World Series season after Palmer announced his retirement.
Burroughs got his first head coaching job when he took over at Northwestern State in 2013. Louisiana Tech hired him to the same position following the 2016 campaign when Alabama hired former La. Tech coach Greg Goff.
The arrival of Burroughs at Louisiana Tech puts him in Conference USA along with Berry.
“I'm obviously excited, happy for him,” Berry said. “He worked his way through the ranks to get where he is. They've had a lot of success. It's good to have friends in the league. It makes your job much more enjoyable.
“We're like brothers.”
Berry and Burroughs are on great terms, but the two men like the idea of the USM-Tech series becoming an event on the schedule that gets fans wound up at both schools.
“I think it needs to be (a rivalry),” Burroughs said. “Rivalries in college sports are healthy. You don't want it to take an ugly turn to where it becomes unhealthy, but we need that weekend that fans get up for. There's nothing like an intense rivalry.”
Under the direction of Goff and now Burroughs, Louisiana Tech is a program on the rise. The Bulldogs made the postseason for the first time in 29 years last season, reaching the title round of the Starkville Regional before being eliminated 4-0 by Mississippi State.
Louisiana Tech picked up this season where it left off in 2016, jumping out to a 13-2 record with an RPI ranking of No. 9.
Southern Miss has also played well in the early going with a record of 11-4.
When the Golden Eagles and Bulldogs meet on C-USA's opening weekend, the results will have a major impact on the standings the rest of the way. If the two teams finish among the top eight teams as expected, they'll both qualify for the C-USA Tournament on May 24-28 at MGM Park in Biloxi.
There's plenty on the line, but that won't change anything this week between Berry and Burroughs.
“We're not going to talk about baseball. We'll talk about different things,” Burroughs said. “Win, lose or draw, we'll get together and have dinner Saturday night. He'll want to beat me and I'll want to beat him. But when the game is over, we're still buddies and it will go on that way.”